Air Cargo Netherlands chairman, Ivo Aris, is frustrated about the inertia governing Schiphol’s air cargo policy, compared to the Dutch seaports and the initiatives taken by the airports in neighboring countries serving the same catchment area. The community supports his criticism.
Mr. Aris exposed his views in a column in the leading logistics trade paper, Nieuwsblad Transport. According to Mr Aris, the seaports know very well how to sketch out their future vision. He points out that, for airports too, cargo is important since it enhances their network quality as evidenced throughout the pandemic.
“Schiphol (SPL) has been one of the most important air cargo hubs in Europe, having Frankfurt, Brussels, London and Paris as its main competitors. But in the cargo segment, the airport has been going through stormy weather for years,” he criticizes.
He adds that, even before the corona crisis, the cargo figures at SPL were dropping dramatically due to the unavailability of slots. A sound combination of freighter flights and belly capacity is imperative, Mr Aris maintains. “If large international players leave Schiphol, our national airport may change from a cargo hub into an offline cargo station, with high-value logistics services departing to neighboring airports.”
Frankfurt and Brussels are showing the way
Weighing up the competition, Mr. Aris admits that Frankfurt has chosen the right path by upgrading air cargo to ‘executive level attention’. “This is certainly not the case at Schiphol, where freight has been incorporated into the Aviation Business Development department.” According to the ACN chairman, this is an abysmal signal towards the world outside.
The official is equally impressed by Brussels Airport, where he sees a symbiosis between Brucargo, Air Cargo Belgium, and the air cargo community. “People know each other, talk to each other, and boast a rise in volumes thanks to the Brucargo brand name. Schiphol, on the other hand, seems to be self-concerned mainly since the ‘reset’ operation.”
Even London Heathrow, which used to concentrate on passenger and belly cargo, is revving up its efforts to attract more freighters, Mr Aris notices. “Schiphol has allocated its cargo strategy to the ‘paper that can wait’ pile. The Local Rule II needs optimizing for cargo flights, and talks are needed with the industry on a cargo slot pool. So far, there is no result. In an air cargo world in which the cards are being reshuffled in the post-corona period, all I can see in the Netherlands is a huge indolence,” Mr Aris concludes.
Applause from the airport users
His comments are endorsed by many users of the airport. One of them is Henk Veenema, Managing Director DHL Global Forwarding Netherlands. “It is very nice what Ivo is saying, which echoes what I said at the ACN meeting 2 years ago,” he remarks.
“I think that Schiphol Airport is not taking its task as a ‘harbor master’ very seriously. Cargo may be important for SPL’s management now due to the pandemic, but as a whole, it is not supported in the way we would like to see it. Their new strategy looks splendid on paper, but in reality, they are just sitting back in the corner, joined by KLM.”
Slot ruling drags on
Marcel Stuhmer, Singapore Airlines Cargo’s Manger Regional Director for the Benelux & France, is of the same opinion. “They seem to have lost some of the ‘sting’,” he says. “We miss the drive to make Schiphol the huge air cargo hub. The signals they produce in that respect are not entirely clear.”
For the airlines, the dragging slot ruling is annoying, Mr Stuhmer admits. “For us, it is important to know what we will be allocated in the end.” On the other hand, airlines can go their own way, and for SIA Cargo, this is splitting its traffic between Brussels (5 weekly flights) and Amsterdam (6).
Speaking for the shippers’ organization, evofenedex, Rogier Spoel says that Mr Aris’ plea for more attention for air cargo is justified. “Cargo was the only thing that kept the airport busy during the pandemic. If there is one commodity that has passed through the airport, it was Covid-19 related supplies.”
Mr Spoel fully understands their frustration because investments (by SPL) have been postponed and the slot ruling has been dragging on.
Marcel Schoeters in Amsterdam
We welcome and publish comments from all authenticated users.